George Town, Penang [Map Guide] together with Melaka –two historic port cities of the straits of Melaka have been nominated for inclusion in Unesco World Heritage List. An assessor from Unesco has visited Penang recently and completed site assessment to evaluate Penang State Government’s proposal with the outcome of the bid is expected to be made known by July 2008. Penang’s bid onto the World Heritage Listing, when successful, will boost the isle’s tourism sector and enhance Penang status internationally.
Intproperties.com director spoke to conservation expert and a custodian of heritage, Associate Professor Dr A Ghafar Ahmad recently for his views and comments on Penang’s bid for world heritage listing. Dr Ghafar outlines 3 main criterias and justification for nomination of Penang together with Melaka onto world heritage listing:-
a)Historical aspect - on the importance of the Straits of Melaka whereby many port cities have established;
b)Architectural aspect - Melaka and Georgetown are two port cities with most numbers of prewar historical shop-houses outside China:
c)Social aspect - melting pot of multi-cultures of various ethnic groups.
While Dr Ghafar concurs that Penang tourism industries are expected to benefit when Penang make it onto the world Unesco heritage listing, he calls for more pro-active community participation in managing our own heritage buildings to further promote George Town as a living heritage city and to encourage more tourists to experience hands-on our unique heritage costumes, handicrafts and cultural festivals etc.
More updated resources on the nomination of Penang for inclusion into World Heritage List is available here.
Heritage conservation in George Town
The conservation of George Town was introduced in the form of a conservation plan for the city of George Town in 1973. More info at The chronology of heritage milestone In George Town and The George Town Inventory.
In 1986, Penang Heritage Trust (PHT), a Penang-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) was formed to promote the conservation of Penang’s heritage and to foster cultural education about the history and heritage of Penang. According to PHT’s website, there are a total of 97 buildings in George Town being listed as heritage buildings which amongst others include historical mosques and Chinese clan kongsi. A list of heritage trails, heritage buildings and information on various festivals and cultural celebrations of Penangites are also available at Penang’s official tourism website. More info at update link on State govt upgrading heritage trail.
George Town Conservation Zone
According to the recently gazetted Penang State Structure Plan 2020, the George Town heritage area is classified into two zones, namely Core Heritage Zone (109.38 hectares) and Buffer Zone (150.04 hectares);
The historic City of George Town (core zone) covers an area of 109. 38 hectares bounded by the Straits of Malacca on the north-eastern cape of Penang Island, Lorong Love (Love Lane) to the north-west and Malay Street Gat and Dr. Lim Chwee Leong Road to the south-west corner. There are more than 1,700 historic buildings within the core zone align on four main streets of Weld Quay, Beach Street, Masjid Kapitan Keling Road and Love Lane besides other perpendicular streets of Tun Syed Barakbah Road, Light Street, Bishop Street, Church Street, China Street, Market Street, Chulia Street, Armenian Street and Acheh Street. More insights and photos on heritage buildings and historic shophouses below;
a) George Town Core Heritage Zone - Chulia Street, Beach Street, Market Street-Little India, Weld Quay, Convent Light Street and The Esplanade.
b) George Town Buffer Heritage Zone - Penang Road, Farquhar Street and Campbell Street.
The Penang heritage enclave is classified into six conservation zones namely the Seven Street Precinct, the Cultural Precinct of Chulia Street and Love Lane, the Historical Commercial District of Little India, the Waterfront Business and Financial district, Mosques and Clan House enclave and Markets and Shopping Precincts as shown in picture below.
However, in accordance with the newly gazzetted structure plan and city council guidelines, the Seven Street Precinct (Zone 1) is no longer regarded as heritage enclave.
Guidelines for heritage conservation in George Town
The restoration of heritage buildings or redevelopment within George Town conservation zone are subject to the newly gazzetted Penang State Structure Plan 2020 which has outlined a set of planning policy statements on heritage conservation for George Town conservation zone until year 2020 and city council of George Town (MPPP)’s guildelines for heritage conservation. A management plan involving several stakeholders will also be finalised soon to implement the heritage policy for the Penang heritage zone.
Critics are urging the authorities to adopt a balance approach to ensure economic viability for property owners in George Town as not any old house has heritage value and to study the impact of Unesco heritage listing for George Town. The Penang state government has recently responded that it will be adopting a flexible approach in approving new development projects within core areas of the inner city of George Town.
Pricing trend of historical shophouses in George Town
According to Ms Lau Wai Sheang, Penang State Finance Ministry Valuation and Property Services Department Director who presented her talk - The Inner city of George Town, Penang: Conservation and values during the recent Star Property & Home Fair 2007, with the abolition of Rent Control Act since Jan 2000, inner city residents of George Town moved out due to rent increase and urban decay set in resulting some of the prewar houses in abandoned or dilapidated conditions. She stressed that there is a need to conserve in order to protect value of land in the George Town inner city. According to her, there is also growing interest from institutional buyers outside Penang towards Penang historic buildings. She also explained on the comparative prices of prewar shophouses within vis-a-vis outside the George Town heritage enclave for the past 7 years. See Chart 1 below :-
HI - Heritage Building Category I
HII - Heritage Building Category II
CA - Conservation Area Grade A
CB - Conservation Area Grade B
HCE - Historical and Conservation Enclave
In recent years, there are more historic shophouses within George Town conservation area being restored for “adaptive re-use” such as heritage hotels, bar and restaurants, boutique and specialty shops noticeably in areas such as upper Penang road, Kimberley Street, Nagore Street. Growing interest were noted towards historical shophouses within George Town conservation area. A row of 11 units of 80-year old shophouses at Khoo Sian Ewe Road off Burma Road with a total land area of 12,949 sq ft was sold recently for RM4 million to an institutional buyer from Kuala Lumpur after being put up for auction at a reserved price of RM2.3 million.
For heritage building enthusiasts, more insights on remarkable works by Dr A Ghafar Ahmad and conservation architects Tan Yeow Wooi and Lawrence Loh.
For advisory on property investments in George Town, Penang email to us at Izrin & Tan Properties Sdn. Bhd. or call us at +604 6588333 (Penang Office) or +603 92839782 (Kuala Lumpur Office) and we would be pleased to assist.
The above web aritcle is written by Sr Tan Chai Liang (view profile). If you have any comments or views on the above web article, email your feeback to the writer.
Ms Lau Wai Sheang, Penang State Finance Ministry Valuation and Property Services Department Director ..
View Of George Town inner city
A row of 11 units of 80-year old shophouses at Khoo Sian Ewe Road off Burma Road with a total land area of 12,949 sq ft was sold recently for RM4 million to an institutional buyer from Kuala Lumpur.
Hotel 1926 - Penang’s first heritage hotel along Burma Road.